(A large room inside a Krenim ship. Obrist stands in front of a gigantic slot machine, unenthusiastically feeding coins into it and pulling the lever. There is a small pile of coins at his feet. Annorax enters.)
Annorax: Well? How goes it?
Obrist: Not well, sir. I've hardly won anything for the past three hours and I'm down to my last few dozen coins.
Annorax: Very well. I'll scan the area to see if there are any more ships nearby we can loot for additional money.
Obrist: Sir, is all this really necessary? My arm is awfully tired and....
(As Obrist speaks, he pulls the lever once again and, this time, he is rewarded with flashing lights and a loud "DING-DING-DING!" sound. The machine disgorges tens of thousands of coins across the floor. Obrist punches the air triumphantly.)
Obrist: We did it, sir! We hit the jackpot!
(Annorax walks over to the giant machine, leans over to bring his ear close to it and bangs the side hard with his fist. From deep within the machine comes the faint sound of a single coin rattling around.)
Annorax: We missed one. Start over, Obrist.
Obrist: Again? Sir, this is the biggest jackpot we've ever won. Can't we quit while we're ahead for a change?
Annorax: I will not be satisfied until I have cleaned out this machine, is that understood?
Obrist: (dejectedly) Yes, sir. But may I at least suggest that....
Obrist: Well, couldn't you find some way to speed things up a bit? It's such a waste of time to have to keep feeding these coins into the machine over and over again.
Annorax: Hmm. You may have a point there....
(Annorax thinks for a moment, then walks across the room to his drawing board and starts drawing.)
(Aboard the Five-Minute Voyager, in the Astrometrics Lab)
Kira: Derek and I are done, Captain. The new Astrometrics Lab is now ready for business.
Zeke: Nice screen. Would anyone mind if I played a few games of Mega Man in here from time to time?
Zeke: Okay, scratch that idea. So how does this thing work?
Derek: It uses Borg technology to achieve a higher image resolution than your primitive Starfleet instruments are capable of. I shall demonstrate by scanning to see if any other vessels are present nearby.
(Derek works the console. A large alien ship appears on the screen.)
Zeke: Wow...that's a whale of a big ship.
Kira: And I like the all-white paint job too.
Zeke: So do I. You weren't kidding about the screen resolution -- it make that ship look as if it's just twenty meters away from us.
Derek: (consulting a readout and suddenly looking worried) Actually, according to these instruments...it is.
(A transporter effect shimmers in the room and several Krenim soldiers appear, carrying oversized pistols with slot-shaped muzzles. As the Five-Minute Voyager officers run for cover behind the console, the soldiers start to fire their weapons, which spit out salvoes of high-velocity poker chips. One chip hits Kira directly in the forehead, knocking her out.)
Zeke: (slapping his combadge as he dives behind the console) Red alert! Intruders in Astrometrics!
(The Kremin keep shooting at Zeke and Derek, but their poker chips bounce off the console behind which they are hiding.)
Krenim Officer: Cease fire! Switch to commando tactics!
(The Krenim soldiers holster their poker-chip launchers, pull out blackjacks and simultaneously charge around and over the console, quickly overpowering Zeke and Derek by sheer weight of numbers....)
Zeke: Oh, my aching head! How long have I been out?
Marc: About a day or so, according to the chapter title. Now, are you going to lie still like a good patient or are you going to get all Captain-y and demand to know the condition of your ship and walk out of Sickbay before I discharge you?
Zeke: Take a wild guess.
Marc: It figures. (He gestures to someone waiting in his office.) To save time, I've asked Mr. GAF to come give you a full report.
Zeke: Good plan. Well, IJD?
IJD: The people who attacked us are called the Krenim. They beamed into several parts of the ship simultaneously and overcame the crew before we could react. The funny thing is that they left soon afterwards without having taken anything or damaged any of our systems.
Zeke: Weird. Any clues about what they wanted?
IJD: Well, our security forces managed to wound one of the Krenim as they were leaving. He got away, but he dropped the scanning device he had with him. We examined it and saw that it was set to detect metal coins.
Marc: Ironic, isn't it? The aliens were probably aiming for good old-fashioned piracy and who did they attack? A crew from a civilization that doesn't use money. It's laughable when you think about...Captain, what's wrong? You look a little pale.
(Zeke jumps out of bed and charges out of Sickbay. IJD stares after him for a second, then sets off in pursuit. Down the hallway, he sees the door to Zeke's quarters open. As he approaches, he hears a wail of despair inside the room.)
Zeke's Voice: Nooooo! My lucky loonie! It's GONE!
Captain's Log: Our search for the Krenim vessel has so far been unsuccessful. Unless I can motivate my crew to redouble their efforts, I fear that I shall never see my precious again. Finds it we must...yes, yesssss.
(On the Bridge)
Zeke: See this replicated coin, crew? It's an exact, uh, replica of my lucky loonie.
(He nails the coin to the bulkhead next to the turbolift, just above the ship's dedication plaque.)
Zeke: I shall give this coin, and a hundred more like it, to the first man who spots the Great White Krenim Spaceship and sings out, "Thaaar she blows!"
Marc: Excuse me, but where's the incentive in that? The Federation doesn't use money, and even if it did we won't be home for another seventy years.
Zeke: Just for that, Doc, you get to stand the first watch in the crow's nest.
Marc: You're just saying that because I'm the only crewmember who can sit out there without a spacesuit.
Kira: Could I make a comment here? Zeke, I think you're treating this whole business way too seriously. If I were you, I'd just forget about the guy who stole your silly coin.
Zeke: No! I'll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition's flames before I give him up!
IJD: Okay, that sounded pretty final.
Captain's Log: This morning, we finally located and engaged the Krenim. Following the enemy vessel's cowardly retreat, we are now patching up the ship prior to continuing the pursuit. Kira assures me that we'll get along just fine with the single warp engine we have left, and that the Five-Minute Voyager won't look quite as stupid once the surviving nacelle has been moved to a symmetrical position on the centerline of our hull.
IJD: Sir, on behalf of what's left of the crew, I'd like to give you this antique watch as a birthday present.
Zeke: I can't accept it. We've taken so much damage from our running battles with the Krenim that we can't waste our limited replicator capacity on nonessentials.
IJD: Very well, sir. What shall I do with the watch?
Zeke: Our first priority is to hold the ship together. Put this thing into the recycling unit and convert it into a roll of duct tape.
Chief Medical Officer's Log: The Krenim attacks are taking an increasingly heavy toll on the ship and crew. The junior officers in particular complain that they have trouble sleeping because the Captain's new ivory peg leg makes too much noise when he paces back and forth across the Bridge at night.
Obrist: Sir, installation of the Temporal Reset Device you designed has finally been completed on the slot machine.
Annorax: Excellent. From now on, rather that feeding thousands of coins back into the machine one by one whenever we hit an unsatisfactory jackpot, we can simply press a button to return the machine to the condition it was in before the payout and try again.
Obrist: That was the theory, sir, but when we tried it we ran into a problem.
Obrist: The reset is too perfect. Whenever we replay a game, we keep getting the exact same result. You've locked the machine into a pattern it will repeat for all of eternity!
Annorax: If I can spare the time to get the job done, Obrist, then so can you.
Obrist: With all due respect, sir, I had other plans for the foreseeable future. Couldn't we add some kind of infinite-improbability randomization circuit to the Reset Device, so that the results would vary every now and then?
Annorax: Impossible. Such technology is beyond the abilities of Delta Quadrant science.
Obrist: Then perhaps we should outsource the job, if you catch my drift.
Annorax: Hmm. You may have a point there.....
Kira: You took a big gamble kidnapping me right out of my engine room! I demand to be released from this flying casino immediately!
Annorax: No dice. You will help us design the temporal randomization circuit that I have described to you. Obrist here will supervise your work. (Annorax leaves the room)
Obrist: Do not resent us for abducting you. It was necessary.
Kira: Your poker face doesn't fool me -- you think your boss is an even bigger jerk than I do. How did you end up with this stupid assignment in the first place?
Obrist: Luck of the draw, I guess.
Captain's Log: We have negotiated an alliance with several coin-collecting and anti-gambling species. A covert signal received from Kira has informed us that Annorax's ship is in orbit around the Forest Moon of Endor. I have persuaded our allies to join us in a frontal assault against the Krenim vessel, even though many of them think I'm a loonie for suggesting such a plan.
Zeke: Fleet Commander Zeke to allied ships! Krenim vessel dead ahead -- all units assume attack coordinates!
IJD: The fleet is responding, sir. Assuming the Krenim aren't expecting us, we should achieve excellent results.
Krenim Ship: ZAP! ZAP! ZAP!
Allied Ships: KA-BOOM! KA-POW!
Derek: The fleet has been destroyed and our ship has been fatally damaged. Warp core breach in thirty seconds. Since the results achieved were not excellent, logic suggests that the Krenim were expecting us.
Zeke: I'm glad you're here to tell us these things. Helm, set a collision course with the part of Annorax's ship housing the Temporal Reset Device that Kira told us about! Meanwhile, I'll think of some famous last words to utter!
IJD: Do we have to have a quote? Can't we just crash into these guys without being theatrical about it?
Zeke: No, it's not right for my idiom. I must ram them more -- what's the word? -- dramatically.
Derek: How about, "Time's up!"?
Zeke: No, too obvious.
Computer: Fifteen seconds to impact.
IJD: "Time to take out the garbage!"?
Zeke: Wrong context.
Computer: Ten seconds to impact.
Derek: "From Hell's heart I stab at thee!"?
Zeke: It's been done before.
Computer: Five seconds to impact.
Zeke: Ah, I've got it!
(Zeke stands up and strikes a resolute pose, glaring at the image of the Krenim ship now filling the viewscreen)
Zeke: (in a defiant voice) Time to cash in our chips!
Captain's Log: Kira informs me that the new Astrometrics Lab will be ready to go online this afternoon. It's occurred to me that, with its high-resolution screen, the room could serve double duty as a new theatre for our weekly movie night. I'll suggest to Mr. Neelix that we hold a gala opening for it by showing my favourite film, Moby Dick -- meaning the Patrick Stewart version, of course, which is so much better than the older one with Gregory Peck.
(On Kyana Prime)
Mrs. Annorax: Honey, must you go play poker with the boys tonight? I was hoping we could spend the evening together.
Annorax: But sweetheart, Friday is always poker night...you know that.
Mrs. Annorax: Well I've had enough! If you don't start spending more time with me, I'll leave you!
Annorax: You wouldn't dare!
Mrs. Annorax: Oh yes I would...and you can bet on that!
TO BE CONTINUED....